What do you do about monkeys?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1998:

NAPLES, Fla.; CAPE TOWN, South Africa;
HONG KONG; NEW DELHI & MUMBAI, India;
TOKYO, Japan; TAIPEI, Taiwan; KUALA LUMPUR,
Malaysia; BANGKOK, Thailand––Officials in Naples,
Florida, in late July endured an exotic headache when someone
complained to the local health department about a colony of
feral South American squirrel monkeys who have lived in the
trees overlooking the tennis court at the Collier Athletic Club for
at least 50 years.
The Health Department forwarded the complaint to
Lieutenant Wayne Maahs of the Florida Game and Fresh Water
Fish Commission, who in 1995 reportedly recommended
removing the monkeys because they are not native to Florida.
Maahs called trapper Gary Rosenblum, 42, owner of World
Exotics Zoo Supply in South Naples. Rosenblum agreed to capture
the five-pound monkeys for resale as pets. He expected to
get about $500 apiece for them.


But word of the deal leaked out. Members of the athletic
club petitioned against the trapping. The International
Primate Protection League defended the monkeys with a letterwriting
and fax campaign. State representative Ralph
Livingston (R-Fort Myers) said he had extracted a promise from
Lieutenant Colonel Greg Holder of the Florida Game and Fresh
Water Fish Commission that Rosenblum’s permit to trap the
monkeys would be revoked.
Sarasota In Defense of Animals became involved, as
did the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, which asked
Naples mayor Bill Barnett to seek an ordinance barring both
feeding and harassing the monkeys. ARF recommended as
model an ordinance adopted by Dania, Florida, when it dealt
with a purported feral monkey crisis in 1993. Attorney Mike
Carr sought a permanent injunction against trapping the monkeys
on behalf of property owners Delores and James Brandon,
whose land forms some of the monkeys’ habitat.
Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation notified
ANIMAL PEOPLE.

SPECIAL STATUS
Monkeys tend to enjoy special status, of sorts, even
in nations where animals generally are held in low regard. In
Malaysia, for instance, where problematic dogs are casually
shot, Terengganu Wildlife and National Park Department director
Ahmad Shamsuddin promised only to relocate some of the
monkeys who on August 5 overpowered staff at the Kuala
Terengganu health clinic and stole various equipment––even
though Shamsuddin also acknowledged many previous complaints
about similar attacks on homes and beaches.
Monkeys are most respected in India, as emissaries of
the Hindu god Hanuman. “For three decades, monkeys have
held sway in several hospitals in New Delhi,” reported S o u t h
China Morning Post correspondent Rahul Bedi on July 24. “At
the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the country’s flagship
hospital, windows have been barred against gangs of monkeys,
descendants of escapees from the institute’s laboratories
over 25 years ago. But it is not uncommon for the monkeys to
chase nurses and patients down the corridors. Patients have
waked from anesthesia to be greeted by a red-bottomed monkey
sharing their bed or casually playing with their glucose or blood
transfusion drips.”
However, Bedi added, “Protests stopped efforts to
shoot the monkeys in the 1980s, and patients’ relatives now
feed them, hoping Hanuman will speed recovery.”
In Mumbai, the animal rescue group Ahimsa on May
21 captured seven ex-performing monkeys who had been abandoned
downtown, and relocated them near Tansa Lake, on the
outskirts of the city. The attempted good deed impressed Times
of India reporter Lina Choudhury, but raised a question from
others perhaps more familiar with monkey ways: having
learned to beg and steal on busy streets, would they not find the
countryside too quiet and soon make their way back?
Primatologist Iqbal Malik estimated in 1996 that India
has approximately 500,000 rhesus macaques, of whom half live
in cities––including troupes who occasionally even ransack the
presidential complex, Parliament buildings, and top ministerial
offices. Employed to catch and relocate the offenders, Malik
found that some prefer streets to jungle.
According to Rahul Bedi, Patiala, 200 miles north of
Delhi, decided several years ago that monkeys who misbehave
like humans should be punished like humans. One monkey
served more than a year in jail for attacking students at the
Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana. Two others,
arrested for purse-snatching and lunch-stealing, earned parole.
Other nations’ responses to problem urban monkeys
are equally idiosyncratic. Si Saket province, Thailand, is said
to have bought peace from about 2,000 monkeys for several
years by giving them rations amounting to two bags of rice
apiece per month––but the mid-1997 collapse of the Thai economy
put an end to the handouts and turned the monkeys into
thieves. To harm them, however, would be against the prevailing
Buddhist beliefs.
Taiwan earlier this year solved conflicts between traffic
and Formosan rock monkeys near the peak of Jade Mountain
by building rope bridges. Jade Mountain chief ranger Lee Wuhsiung
credited the ropes with cutting roadkills and associated
car crashes down to nothing.

THE LETHAL APPROACH
Hong Kong has for years debated what to do about a
mixed colony of about 1,000 rhesus macaques and longtailed
macaques, apparently descended from abandoned pets, who
inhabit the Kowloon Hills. Humans can be severely fined for
feeding them, but the law is rarely enforced. The transfer of
Hong Kong from British to Chinese administration may have
tipped official favor toward sterilizing the macaques, rather
than killing them, but an Agriculture and Fisheries Department
study group reportedly wants to keep the option of killing them
open if sterilization proves impractical.
Japan developed a macaque crisis around 35 years
ago, partly due to urban sprawl taking over former macaque
habitat, partly because entrepreneurs created the equivalent of
roadside zoos and encouraged visitors to buy food for the resident
macaques until they overpopulated, put their intelligence
to work, and escaped. Since 1980, Japanese agricultural officials
have allowed farmers to kill about 500 macaques a year to
protect crops, and animal control officers also shoot around 150
macaques per year within metropolitan Tokyo, but
macaque/human conflicts are still increasingly common. In
January 1998, six wild macaques bit at least 31 elderly women
on the buttocks during a series of attacks in the seaside town of
Ito, 60 miles southwest of Tokyo, and for two weeks in July a
particularly aggressive macaque reportedly terrorized Osaka.
South African officials say fewer than 50 baboons survive
in the mountains between Kommetjie and the Cape Point
Nature Reserve, with about 250 more inside the reserve, but
that seems to be 50 too many for locals who in a series of July
and August incidents hanged two; shot and mutilated another;
poisoned a pair; and trapped another, painted her white, then
turned her loose. One Rolff van der Linden, a motel owner,
demanded that licenses be issued to hunt baboons. The conflict
seemed reminiscent of wolf reintroduction in the U.S. west,
with the animals blamed for the inability of cultural traditionalists
to cope with change.

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